Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) (also known as socially transmitted diseases) were conspicuously absent from the Millennium Development Goals and seemed to miss out on the 'golden years' of health funding despite causing more death and disability than any other disease group worldwide. The share of 'development assistance for health' dedicated to NCDs has remained at 1-2% of the total since 2000. This level of funding is insufficient to attain the nine targets in the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Action Plan on NCDs. In 2015 the Sustainable Development Goals - which include the target of reducing premature NCD mortality by a third - were endorsed by 193 countries. Whilst this commitment is welcome, the same text stresses the primacy of domestic financing, which is currently dominated by out-of-pocket payments in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This paper presents the findings of the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on NCDs financing working group. The group was convened to explore NCD financing options with an emphasis on LMICs. The main sources of available finance include taxation, loans, engagement with the private sector, impact investment and innovative financing mechanisms. There is a role for development assistance to increase in the interim as raising additional revenue from these sources will take time. In the medium term it may be appropriate for international NCD funding to remain low where LMICs successfully assume financial responsibility for preventing and controlling NCDs. Countries will have to manage blends of innovative and traditional funding sources, whilst finding ways to boost tax revenue for NCDs.
Keywords: Global health; development; financing; health systems; non-communicable diseases.